How to Backup Your Files

When I do house-calls, it seems like someone always asks me how to backup their computer. After a couple of questions, I find that most of the time, what they really want to know is how to save their documents and pictures in the event that something horrible happens to their computer. So let’s start with the basics.

You need an external usb device.

Some people refer to them as jump drives, flash drives, usb sticks, memory sticks, and a whole host of other names. What’s important is that you find something that has enough space, is removable, and doesn’t cost too much. If you pay more than $1 per gigabyte, you’re paying too much. You can get them at any store that sells electronics and probably even at gas stations now.

They will come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all plug in to a usb port and have the same tip. Here are just a few examples:


An 8, 16, or 32 gigabyte flash drive will suffice for most people. And remember, you can always get another if you fill it up.

Plug the device in and wait patiently.

After you insert the drive and it installs the driver (which can take anywhere from 5 seconds to 5 minutes on older machines, patience pays), some computers will give a pop-up box asking what you want to do with it.



Some won’t do anything. To find out where it is and what it’s called, open your file manager or go to My Computer. You should see a new drive there. You can now double click on the drive to open it.


To save your important stuff…

With your flash drive window open, find the files you want to save (my documents, my pictures, etc.), and drag the item or folder to the window of the flash drive.


That’s it! There is no special “backup” software or special tricks you need to know. After dragging everything you want to save over to the flash drive, close the windows and just pull out the stick. Place it somewhere safe. You can add to or delete from it whenever you want!

Do not leave your flash drive plugged in forever.

Some well meaning people forget to remove the drive. If your power goes out, or your computer crashes, the drive can be damaged along with the computer. The purpose is to have something separate from your computer that you can plug into a new computer should something happen to it.

What can’t be saved?

The short answer is programs. If you try to drag a program over to the flash drive it will look like it worked, but it just makes a link to open it on the computer, it’s not the real program.

Is that all there is to a backup?

Yes and no. Again, for most people, this is what they want. In terms of saving your entire computer, programs, the way it looks and what you’re used to seeing, that’s a little more involved. However, Windows takes care of that for you now. Whenever you do something new to your computer, such as add a program or perform an update, it automatically adds a restore point so that if there is crash or bug, it can revert back to a previous state that worked.

Get a flash drive today and save a headache tomorrow!



*It should be noted that in some versions of Windows (mostly Windows 8), it can be difficult to open 2 windows at once, because when you click on another file manager it switches what you were looking at instead of  opening an additional window. To make it easier, once you have 1 window already opened, right click on the other folder you want to open and select “open in new window”.  Then you can see both at once!

Aaron Bettner

Aaron Bettner

Owner at Thriftech
Aaron is the owner and founder of Thriftech in Columbus, Indiana.His goal is to keep regular people from getting ripped off at retail stores and tech shops by teaching them to keep their computers clean and providing affordable services when they need someone else to do it for them.
Aaron Bettner

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